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What do you do when the person you’re dating is keeping their ‘options open’?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

The phrase ‘keeping my options open’ continually permeates our society. Whether it’s from reality tv to social media, ‘keeping my options open’ continues to haunt us.

As annoying as this phrase is, many of us have experienced this ambiguous area in relationships. This ambiguity tends to occur when the person we’re dating isn’t communicating about where things are going, what they want or has stated they’re just not ready to commit to being exclusive or monogamous yet. Sometimes that’s completely understandable as every situation varies. However, it may be a sign that they have commitment issues and are taking advantage of us. It’s important that we are aware of how to control this situation and how not to let them take advantage of us.

Which leads me to my question: what do you do when the person you’re dating is keeping their options open?

If you’re at that stage in a relationship where the next thing you want is commitment, because you’ve got to know the person you’re dating and realise you want to commit, what do you do? If the other person is either ignoring the question or stating that they’re not on your page – what happens?

  • What do you want?

The first step should be to ask yourself what do you want from this relationship. Commitment is something that shouldn’t be underestimated, it’s a big deal at the end of the day.

The act of choosing one person to focus on means you’re ready to stop exploring other options and people. So it’s important to take your time to get to know someone and figure out who you’re committing to exactly. There’s nothing wrong if you both want a no-strings-attached relationship, as long as both individuals are on the same page about it.

  • If you want to date one person at a time

If the person you’re dating tells you they want to keep their options open and you’d prefer to date just one person at a time, it’s important to remember your response is okay.

It’s much better to be clear with yourself about your boundaries and to recognise what your limitations are. Instead of trying to convince yourself to a accept a lifestyle and therefore a relationships style you’re uncomfortable with or don’t want.

It can of course, be incredibly hard when someone you really like isn’t on the same page as you. However, it is important to remember there are some things in a relationship you should not be willing to compromise on – this is one of them.

  • What happens if you want more?

One of the most important things is to listen to what the other person is saying. If the other person says they aren’t ready to commit to one person, then take them at their word and don’t expect them to change.

Additionally, if you’re a couple months into dating someone and they deliberately and clearly dodge or ignore the ‘what are we?’ question this is a red flag. ‘Why is it a red flag?’, I hear you ask. It’s a red flag because this shows their inability to be open with you and their inability to communicate. This shows that they most likely prefer to keep theirs and yours relationships status vague and innocuous.

So after you’ve realised that you’re both not on the same page and you want more and they’re not communicating with you, what do you do? You need to change your focus from the typical question of ‘how do I make them stay?’ to ‘what is right for me?’ Your natural response, which is perfectly normal, is to take a step back from this relationship. So instead of putting 100% into the relationship, putting 50% is much more reasonable. It’s important to save that extra time and energy to build up your confidence and independence. Spend time with your friends, and experience a different environment, while keeping your options open and giving yourself some self-love.

  • Work out what you want

Taking a step back, as suggested above, is honestly not emotionally realistic for most people. If you find it difficult to play it cool and keep your options open because it will hurt you, then don’t attempt it.

What’s important at this stage is to honour your own relationship desires and preference. If you want to focus on one person instead of multiple and give the one person your all, the best situation is to find yourself a partner who wants the same thing and has the same values as you.

  • What if you want to keep your options open?

If you want to keep your options open then that’s okay too. The most important thing is that you communicate clearly what you want and your position. This is so that it gives the other person free choice as to whether it’s a relationship and lifestyle that they want and something that would work for them.

I'm the Sex and Relationships Editor for Exeter and a third year student studying Classical Studies and English with a passion for literature, art and film!
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